Friday, November 09, 2012

Two Safe and Legal Deaths: Would More Die if Not For Legalization?

Demetrice Andrews, age 22, underwent an abortion on October 17, 1988. She became progressively ill, and was finally admitted to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Demetrice suffered multiple organ failure. She died on November 9, 1988. It is ironic that Demetrice was admitted to Grady to be treated for abortion complications. Another woman, Jacqueline Reynolds, died just two years earlier, from complications of anesthesia administered for an abortion performed at Grady.

"Yvonne" Roe is one of the women Life Dynamics notes on their "Blackmun Wall" of women killed by legalized abortion. Yvonne was a 19-year-old student who died from sepsis on November 9, 1999 in Marrero, Louisiana, after undergoing a safe and legal abortion. She had been an All-American cheerleader and a member of the National Honor Society. Life Dynamics cites the Clarion Ledger, November 11, 1999, and indicates that though they have information giving Yvonne's real name, they can not release it due to a confidentiality agreement.

Supporters of legal abortion would argue that while these young women's deaths were sad, even more women would die every year if abortion had not been legalized.  To encourage people to believe this, abortion-advocacy organizations and leaders put forth claims such as: 
  • "The legalization of induced abortion beginning in the 1960s contributed to an 89% decline in deaths from septic illegal abortions during 1950-1973." (Centers for Disease Control
  • "By making abortion legal nationwide, Roe v. Wade has had a dramatic impact on the health and well-being of American women. Deaths from abortion have plummeted, and are now a rarity." (Alan Guttmacher Institute)

The problem is, they're omitting far more than they're saying, and what they do say gives a very false impression as a result.

Let's look at these claims:

"The legalization of induced abortion beginning in the 1960s contributed to an 89% decline in deaths from septic illegal abortions during 1950-1973."

The first legalization of abortion in the US was in 1966, when Mississippi legalized abortion for rape cases. From 1967 through 1970, states began allowing "mental health" abortions approved by hospital committees. In 1970, New York legalized abortion on demand.

Let's zoom in on the period between 1950 and 1973, with a line at 1966 to mark Mississippi's groundbreaking legalization of abortions for rape, another at New York's legalization of abortion on demand, and another at Roe to see how much of the decline can be attributed to legalization:



Actually, I'm sort of bewildered as to why they set their starting point at 1950, 16 years before the first state legalized abortion at all, when the 1950s was a time when abortion mortality was leveling off rather than declining. But regardless of the selection of 1950 rather than 1960 as a starting point for illustrating the supposedly life-saving impact of legalization, clearly abortion deaths had been falling long before the first rather tepid forays into legal abortion in a few states. If legalization had any impact at all, judging from the data, it was to cause a slight blip in the existing downward trend.

 Now let's look at the Alan Guttmacher claim:

"By making abortion legal nationwide, Roe v. Wade has had a dramatic impact on the health and well-being of American women. Deaths from abortion have plummeted, and are now a rarity."

That claim was more vague, and also far less supportable by the data. In fact, it's not even supportable by their own graphic:

I'll add a line at Roe to make this clearer:



Look at the chart below, which shows the number of women dying annually from abortions since 1940. The first vertical line is at 1970 -- when New York became the first state to legalize abortion-on-demand. (It had become de-facto on-demand in California by then as well.) The second is at 1973, when the Roe vs. Wade decision struck down every abortion law in the United States.


 Pointing to Roe as the reason why abortion deaths plummeted starts to look downright delusional when you stand back and look at the data.

What really does account for the dramatic fall in abortion deaths? Two things: antibiotics and blood transfusions.

So you could use actual facts to argue that were antibiotics and blood transfusions not available, even more women would die from abortions. But you can not rationally and honestly claim that legalizing abortion deserves any credit at all for reducing abortion deaths.

7 comments:

DWPittelli said...

If you look at death rates, not just total deaths, you will see that abortions have gotten a lot safer since Roe, as maternal deaths declined despite large increases in the number of abortions. That said, I agree that antibiotics and transfusions were also major factors.

Christina Dunigan said...

But they did not get safer post-Roe any faster than they were getting safer pre-Roe, so it's illogical to credit legalization for any of the drop.

And think of it -- what motive did legalization give any criminal abortionist to stop? Even if he wasn't a doctor, the penalty if he gets caught is significanly lower. So what's his motive to quit?

DWPittelli said...

From your graphics we cannot tell if they didn't get any safer post-Roe. (Again, the rate per abortion is key, although since we don't really know how many illegal abortions there were, this would have to be a bit of a guess.) We also can't tell what effect hospital-performed abortions had on your statistics pre-Roe. Finally, while the supply curve for illegal abortions might not have been affected by Roe, the demand curve of course was. Pre-Roe, illegal abortionists had a monopoly, and could charge high prices for their illegal service; post-Roe, an illegal abortionist had to compete with legal abortionists. Pregnant women's demand for abortion would go almost entirely to legal abortionists, and the only way an illegal abortionist would get work would be by fraud (pretending to be a surgeon) or by undercutting on price. And neither of those options was really viable in the way that his business was viable pre-Roe. (The former due to expense of fitting out an operating room, the risk from operating openly, and the potential for patients to turn one in; the latter for lack of money.)

Christina Dunigan said...

I agree that it would be a guess as to whether the odds of any given woman surving an abortion went up or down with legalization. Was the goal of legalization to reduce the risk to individual women or to reduce the overall number of women dying?

DWPittelli said...

The goal of legalization was to keep pregnant women and doctors from going to prison for seeking or performing abortions. Further, while it is logically possible that legal abortion would mean so many abortions that maternal death totals would be higher than under illegal abortion, this is extremely unlikely, and not even relevant given that abortions, except in the 3rd trimester, are safer than childbirth.

I respect your position in opposition to abortion, and you have a good point about antibiotics and other medical improvements being a big part of the false narrative that legal abortion has saved many women's lives. But it isn't all of it either.

Christina Dunigan said...

"The goal of legalization was to keep pregnant women and doctors from going to prison for seeking or performing abortions."

I agree that from the standpoint of the activists and organizations, that was the goal. I think a lot of the general public was just more concerned about women dying. And the organizations, I think, knew that as well. That's why they inflated the mortality numbers.

"Further, while it is logically possible that legal abortion would mean so many abortions that maternal death totals would be higher than under illegal abortion, this is extremely unlikely, and not even relevant given that abortions, except in the 3rd trimester, are safer than childbirth."

I don't think that legalization did squat for the death rate either way. I think that for every unlicensed doctor that couldn't get business any more because ostensibly licensed clinics had opened, there was somebody like Jesse Ketchum or Milan Vuitch who got sloppy after legalization, or somebody who knew his limitations well enough to stay away from illegal abortions lest he go to prison, but who took up his curette after legalization took that fear away.

I think we just swapped out one kind of quack for another.

The presumption that abortion is safer than childbirth is another topic entirely. You can go to one of those threads if you want to take up that discussion.

I'm glad that you're here and that we're having this discussion.

av女優 said...

財神娛樂評價
體育投注
體育分析
首席娛樂城
香港六合彩
龍筋按摩
口交吞精影片
通博
一夜情聊天室